Lambrolizumab offers new hope for advanced melanoma patients
Latest studies conducted by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center reveal that a new drug called lambrolizumab has shown promising results in treating advanced melanoma. In addition to increasing the survival rate, it seems that the new drug is associated with milder side effects than other drugs that are included in standard chemotherapy. The study results were presented by Dr. Antoni Ribas, UCLA professor of medicine in the division of hematology-oncology, who led the research, at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
Although it is the rarest form of skin cancer (the most common skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), melanoma is associated with the worst prognosis. Until now several therapies have been tested, but none had promising results in the treatment of advanced stage melanoma.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the new drug (lambrolizumab), researchers conducted a study that included 135 patients with advanced stage melanoma who were divided into 3 groups. It was found that 38% of patients treated with lambrolizumab had an improvement in cancer regardless of the dose of drug received. Overall, 77% of all patients had a tumor response. Although the study did not measure the average duration of response to the drug, however it was observed that the longest response was over one year.
Regarding side effects, lambrolizumab was associated with mild, manageable reactions. The most important were fever, fatigue, skin rash, loss of skin color and muscle weakness. It must be mentioned that severe adverse effects occurred in 13% of cases: pulmonary and renal inflammation or thyroid dysfunction. Dr. Ribas said the study showed the highest rate of durable response of any drug they tested in melanoma treatment and that in addition, the side effects were mild compared to other drugs.
Normally, T cells, which are part of the immune system, detect and destroy the promoters of various infections and diseases. But some cancers such as melanoma are not detected by T cells, which causes them to proliferate continuously and to produce metastases. PD-L1 is one of the proteins on the surface of melanoma cells that helps them hide from T cells (in order not to be destroyed). Therefore, researchers have sought to create a molecule to block the protein. Lambrolizumab is an antibody that reactivates the immune system by blocking PD-L1 protein. This drug is now being investigated not only for treating melanoma, and other cancers such as lung cancer.